The second life of your cast-off race clothes

Are those gloves and hats you fling off during the Richmond Marathon and such races really given to someone in need?

Photo by: frankreidjr

When facing a running race, a major worry–other than one’s overall performance and whether there will still be pizza left at the finish line–is what to wear. One of the biggest races in Richmond, the Anthem Richmond Marathon with the accompanying half marathon1 and 8k, occurs in the late fall. Though the day may warm up to “seasonably pleasant,” it is typically very cold in the mornings, sometimes below freezing. But any regular runner knows that things quickly warm up after you cross the starting line.

Other runners and walkers that I’ve talked to about race-day plans have told me that they dress in layers and shed extra jackets, hats, sweatshirts, and gloves along the route, under the assumption that those items are then picked up and donated to homeless individuals.

That’s not exactly what happens. Don’t worry–your hat doesn’t get washed into a sewer or thrown out with crushed Diamond Springs cups–but your old gear takes a little journey before it helps someone else out.

Sports Backers, the organization behind all sorts of events, including the Richmond Marathon and the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, works with Area 10 Faith Community to collect and launder clothes left behind by runners on the first two miles of the marathon, half marathon, and 8k2: routes.

Nicole Farr, Engage Director with Area 10 Faith Community, says that in previous years the clothes were donated to various organizations, but that due to the increasing volume, they now give all items to the Salvation Army to distribute.

“The amount of clothes collected on race morning continues to climb,” she said. “The first couple years we did this, we collected about two tons. The last couple years, we have collected over four tons.”

The Salvation Army then sells the clothes through its stores to benefit the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center, which, according to Matt Frazier, Dispatch Supervisor with the Salvation Army ARC in Richmond, works to helps men overcome personal and social challenges, re-enter society, re-establish vital relationships, and return to gainful employment.

Anyone interested in helping with the collection after the races can sign up through Area 10’s website.

This year’s marathon is on Saturday, November 14th. The temperatures on race day will start out in the 40s. If you’re not sure what that means for your outfit, Runner’s World has a guide for how you should dress.

And, of course, if you have some winter gear in good condition that you’re not planning to strip off during the first two miles of a race, items like hats, gloves, coats, and blankets (like those warm and incredibly welcome and then immediately forgotten fleece blankets given out at the finish line) are on the needs list for the Daily Planet, which offers healthcare and other services to people who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.

  1. Disclosure: I’ve run two-half marathons. That doesn’t present a conflict with any content in the story, but I want everyone to know anyway. 
  2. Love of Jesus Thrift Store handles the collection of items after the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k. 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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